How do you beat unemployment? You spark a startup movement with education initiatives and a focus on being global. 

Elisa Garcia Ananzo leads Microsoft’s next generation focus in Spain, working closing with students, academia, start-ups and investors to support the innovators and entrepreneurs of the future.  As everyone knows, Spain is having a tough economic time, with a high unemployment rate.  In this guest blog post, Elisa looks as some of the challenges facing Spain and some of the projects in place.

Elisa has worked for Microsoft since 2007, with a particular emphasis on collaboration with students, start-ups and the developer community in general.

 “The biggest issue in Spain right now is unemployment.  Around a quarter of the population is unemployed and that figure rises to more than 50 per cent among the under 25s.  So, for young people, earning a living is very hard.  Even if we didn’t have our current economic problems, there simply aren’t enough jobs to support everyone.  So, what is the answer? 

There are obviously lots of components and we can only play a small part in a much bigger picture, but here’s what we are doing.  Within Microsoft Spain, we’ve had an initiative running for over 18 months focused on how to address unemployment and we are seeing two trends, which are also helping to solve the problem.  One, as people leave university and realise they can’t get the jobs they want, then they are creating their own employment by starting their own companies.  Second, there is more of a focus on thinking ‘global’ from day one, rather than just looking at the local economy to support a new business.

 

In both these areas, we can – and are – providing proactive support.  Through our BizSpark program, we are working with some of the country’s top incubators to nurture talent, whether still at university or have already started a business.  We can give them access to the latest developer technology tools and services (including Windows Azure, Windows 8, Windows Phone), support, networking and market visibility.  And with over 60,000 members worldwide, BizSpark is a great way to connect young entrepreneurs with a global network of potential investors, partners and customers.   So, that can really help a start-up with high potential to have a global launchpad.  A good example is online accounting provider Ifacturas, which was recently a Microsoft BizSpark startup of the day.

The work we do with Wayra – the incubator backed by Telefonica -  is a good example of how industry players can collaborate together to support the next generation.  Together, our two organisations work together with the very best of Spain’s start-ups, 10 in Madrid and 10 in Barcelona.  They are given VIP treatment, or in other words, the kind of support that a top national account might expect to receive.  One example is startup Tedcas, which has developed touch screen interfaces for the healthcare industry

For students, we have a variety of initiatives – global competitions like the Imagine Cup are a good example – but at a grass roots level, we can help them develop apps.  What we’re seeing is students start to build their own apps for fun and then realising that this could lead to their future employment.  So again, we can equip them with the technology and support they need to make that process as easy as possible.  It also looks very cool on their CVs if they have an app launched on the Windows store – it’s kind of an endorsement for their talent.  For instance, Camilo Galiana built a WP app called chicken implosion which is being positioned as one of the top games apps in the Windows Store.

 

We can’t solve the very complex problem that is Spain’s unemployment, but we can do our bit.  Spain is home to some of Europe’s brightest and most innovative students and entrepreneurs and it makes my job worthwhile to think we can make a small difference.